The Parthenon of Books

parthenon of books

The documenta 14, the most important exhibition of contemporary art in the world, is taking place in Kassel again (every 5 years). The most prominent piece of art is the Parthenon Of Books by Marta Minujín (Argentina), located on the central Friedrichsplatz, the largest sqaure in Kassel. The Parthenon of Books is a huge scaffold installation with the dimensions and appearance of the Parthenon in Athena, Greece, one of the central symbols of democracy. It is covered by foiled-up books. The books have been donated by publishing companies and by citizens, so everybody can be part of this art installation. The books have one thing in common: they are or have been prohibited somewhere. There is a handy short list and a not so handy more complete list of prohibited books that has been compiled by the students of the department of German philological studies of the Universität Kassel. I donated more or less 15 books including my beautiful edition of "Don Quijote" that I bought back in 2003 in Quito / Ecuador at the book fair in the El Ejido park, as I have a very similar one that was a birthday gift from my friends from my Erasmus semester in Palma / Spain. Nevertheless this was a donation that was not easy for me as I in general don't like to give away books. But I feel quite satisfied to see my beloved Don Quijote on a very prominet position at eye level at one of the central pillar at the outside when coming from south. When documenta is ended in some days, the books shall be given as gifts for the visitors. Standing inside of the Parthenon has its own thrill: The installation is huge and impressive, the idea all those books, pages, paragraphs, sentences, words and thoughts have been prohibited by a government is oppresive. Its location, the Friedrichsplatz, has its own story to tell: When the Nazis were burning books in Germany, in Kassel they did it right here. In the palace located at the Friedrichsplatz which is today known as Museum Fridericianum was a huge library once, but it lost all its books to the fires that destroyed large parts of Kassel after the allied bombing in 1943. And Jacob Grimm, the elder of the two famous Brothers Grimm worked in this very library for the censorship administration of King Jérôme Bonaparte, the brother of Napoelon Bonaparte. So, in many ways, the Parthenon of Book gives visitors a lot of good reasons to contemplate about censorship

Lone Wolf

Do you know Lone Wolf? It is one of the most famous adventure book series ever and was pretty popular among fantasy interested teens in the late eighties resp. early nineties. I loved them. I played them hundred of times. They were the best. I also tried some other books, obviously by the founders of the genre but I didn't find them as intriguing and fascinating as the books about Lone Wolf. Long story short: Lone Wolf is the last survivor of the order of the Kai lords which may be described as medieval jedi-eske warrior monks with super powers. Lone Wolf got to end his training by himself, revive the order of the Kai Lords and find Dark Lord Gnaag to end his tyranny and take revenge. 

Ok, writing this it sounds pretty standard. There may be several reasons why I judge this as great nevertheless. 

1. There was no Harry Potter and no Star Wars Prequel (nor Sequel) and no Lord of the Rings (nor Hobbit) Blockbusters, so finding revenge by killing someone called Dark Lord was not sooooo omnipresent as it may seem today.

2. I was around 12 years old, so this was prette much the beginning of my journey through fantasy literature and roleplaying games.

3. The quality of those 12 books (1) , written by Joe Dever and majorly illustrated by Gary Chalk, was higher than my 2 lines sum up could ever be. Telling you there is a Dark Lord to be killed is a lot less interesting and intruguing than surviving 12 interactive and brillantly written books full of deadly traps and mysterious encounters in order to kill the Dark Lord finally by yourself. 

By the way, there is a pretty new release of the books, if you are interested. I can totally recommend them. OR you could play the interactive eBook, which seems to be half book and half RPG. Looks good aswell. 
AND I have seen there are new books (in form of conventional fiction), co-written by the grandmaster Joe Dever himself. I should risk a look myself, I guess. This is also true for the games that have never been translated to German.

Oh, yeah, AND you can read my post on the Lone Wolf Boardgame. Soon.

(1) As I notice right now, there are 28. In German, there are 12. Wow. 

German Literature: Stan Lee and my Big Brain Theory

Everytime I deal with German literature I remember this scene from Big Bang Theory:

Raj: I can’t wait to ask Stan Lee why he insists on giving all his characters first and last names that start with the same letter.
Leonard: Oh, come on, why would you do that?
Raj: Bruce Banner, Reed Richards, Sue Storm, Stephen Strange, Otto Octavius, Silver Surfer, Peter Parker, oh, and worst of all, J. Jonah Jameson, Jr.

I wonder if Stan Lee, American comic book writer and inventor of some of the greated comic super heroes of all time, also invented the most famous writers in German language:

Heinrich Heine, Günter Grass, Rainer Rilke, Herman Hesse, Bertold Brecht, oh, and worst of all, Achim von Arnim. 


Image: „Printing4 Walk of Ideas Berlin“ von Lienhard Schulz - Eigenes Werk. Lizenziert unter CC BY 2.5 über Wikimedia Commons.


Rilke: Translating "What Survives" into German

Rilke, 1900

What a journey! In the first (and impressive) episode of the brand new SyFy series "The Magicians" a character is reciting a German poem (48:22). Well, at least this is supposed to be the case, as a matter of fact I was not sure if this is German, some historical slavian fantasy estonian or just made up sounds. But then, there were some sentences that could be understood: "Die Quantenstufe? Wer sagt, dass alle verschwinden müssen? Wer weiße moglikerweise der Flug der Vogels der sie verletzte überreste? Unde möglikerweise überleben Blumen" Apparently, this was a quote from a famous German poet and wizard named "Rachkach." ... Well. I never heard this name before, nor was I sure if this was a name at all. A famous german poet with an interest in occultism? Goethe comes to mind, but in English it is generally pronounced more like "Go-theee" so I could not find a link to "Rachkach".
Google was not helpful for the first 20 minutes. I found a source, indeed, but it was a cambridge master thesis with the topic "Christ Among Them: Incarnation and Renaissance in Medieval Italian Culture" by Edoardo Mungiello from 2008. But, reading this, the German is not better here, maybe it is a product by Google Translate:

Wer sagt, daß alle verschwinden müssen? Weir weiß, möglicherweise
der Flug des Vogels verwunden Sie des Remains und möglicherweise
überleben Blumen Liebskosungen in uns, In ihrem Boden.

Es is nicht die Geste, die dauert, aber es kleidet Sie wieder in der
Goldrüstung - von Brust zu knie- Und die Schacht war – ein Engel
trägt ihn nach Ihnen so rein.

—Was Überlebt, Rainer Maria Rilke. 

But, at least, a name, or make that two: The author seems to be the Austrian poetrist Rainer Maria Rilke, english possibly pronounced as Rachkach, and he is indeed one of the most famous poets of the German language (and indeed with a profound interest in occultism). And the poem seems to be "Was überlebt". But after searching this for 20 other minutes: There seems to be no poem with this name by Rilke. So how could this be? Two sources with several years distance between them, both quoting the same miswritten poem - and nothing else? Maybe it was a backtranslation from English to a supposed-to-be German - so I tried searching for Rilke poems with keywords like Goldrüstung or Engel or Blume or Vogelflug. Nothing. So, maybe this is not by Rilke at all, so I tried searching for German poems in general with these keywords. Nothing. ... Well. Maybe... it is... an English poem, mistaken for a German one? So I googled "What survives" and "Rilke" - and tadaa: Here it is. 

Who says that all must vanish?
Who knows, perhaps the flight
of the bird you wound remains,
and perhaps flowers survive
caresses in us, in their ground.

It isn't the gesture that lasts,
but it dresses you again in gold
armor --from breast to knees--
and the battle was so pure
an Angel wears it after you.

Rainer Maria Rilke, translated by A. Poulin 

The comments on this site helped me with the rest: Apparently, Rilke wrote several hundreds of his poems in French. This one was beautifully translated by the american poet Alfred Poulin and seems to be quite popular in the English speaking world. So, well, this is the original version:

Qui te dit que tout disparaisse? 
De l'oiseau que tu blesses, 
Qui sait s'il ne reste le vol? 
Et peut-être les fleurs des caresses 
Survivent à nous, de leur sol. 

Ce n'est pas le geste qui dure, 
Mais il nous revêt de l'armure 
D'or, des flancs aux genoux, 
Et tant la bataille fut pure, 
qu'un Ange la porte après vous. 

That was hard work to find it and I am quite surprised it was. But as a favor for you English speaking guys I will translate the french poem to correct and somewhat nice German now -so you can quote it in your favorite language in the next tv series - I try to keep the wording similar to the quasi canonical translation I found two sources for...

Wer sagt uns, dass alles verschwindet?
Wer weiß, ob des Vogels Flug
bestehen bleibt, wenn Du ihn verletzt, 
und vielleicht überleben uns die Blumen
der Liebe auf ihrem Boden.

Es ist nicht die Geste, die dauert
jedoch, sie kleidet Dich erneut in Harnisch, 
golden von der Brust bis zu den Knien,
und die Schlacht war so rein
Dass ein Engel ihn nach Dir trug.

Rainer Maria Rilke (übersetzt von Daniel Stein)

Image: Rilke, 1900


Edit: The translation is a work in progress; thanks to some notes from a reader and some help with the french by a friend I edited it a bit; may be I will edit it even more in the future. 07/02/2020



Schwarzenbach an der Saale schien wie eine Stadt von gestern. Seit Samstag beherbergt sie ein Comicmuseum, von dem man sich Auftrieb erhofft. Doch anfangs musste ein Donaldist in Richterrobe erst einmal Widerstände abbauen.

FAZ.NET: Erika-Fuchs-Haus: Dann kamen die Enten

Dr. Erika Fuchs became famous for her translations of the Walt Disney stories about Donald Duck (mostly by Carl Barks) etc. into German as she used to insert a great amout of literature and high culture references. Additionally, she reduced Duckburg and Mouseton to one single city, Entenhausen, which leaves German readers with the question, why Mickey and Donald seldom meet. Now, there is a museum build for her in Schwanzenbach an der Saale in Bavaria.

Erikafuchsgedenkplakette“ gestiftet von D.O.N.A.L.D. - photo made in Schwarzenbach. Lizenziert unter CC BY-SA 3.0 über Wikimedia Commons.


This headline is no palindrom e mordnilap on si enildaeh siht

As the end of the year is coming closer I wanted to share my new favorite palindrome with you. As you may know, a palindrome is a word or a sentence (or "string of characters ") which reads the same backward or forward. Unfortunatley, it is in German. But if you are not able to understand it, at least be impressed by this very special palindrome. I provide a translation afterwards so you might see, that it is not totally foolish text. And yes, my favorite English palindrome stays "A man, a plan, a canal - Panama"...

So here it is:

Geist ziert Leben, Mut hegt Siege, Beileid trägt belegbare Reue, Neid dient nie,
nun eint Neid die Neuerer, abgelebt gärt die Liebe, Geist geht, umnebelt reizt Sieg.

or, if you prefer it backwards:

.geiS tzier tlebenmu, theg tsieG, ebeiL eid träg tbelegba, rereueN eid dieN tnie
nun, ein tneid dieN, eueR erabgeleb tgärt dielieb, egeis tgeh tuM, nebeL treiz tsieG

("Spirit graces life, courage nourishes victories, commiseration includes provable remorse, envy never serves,
now envy unites the innovators, deceased love ferments, spirit goes, befogged victory is tantalizing.")

It is attributed to Oscar Herbert Pfeiffer and I found it on Gnudung.

Some additional remarks:
1) As a German I seem to be obliged to mention that "Reliefpfeiler" is a) one of the longest German one word-palindromes and was b) "invented" by Goethe (although Wikipedia states I) it was Schopenhauer and II) that this is not the truth). I am not sure if this is true or interesting but several teachers in my life seem to care about this.

2) Weird Al Yankovich made a song out of Palindromes. It goes something like this:

Weird Al Yankovic: Bob from ding dong on Vimeo.

3) There are also Palindrome novelles. According to Wikipedia, there is e.g. the novel "Dr Awkward & Olson in Oslo" by Lawrence Levine from 1986 containing 31,954 bidirectional words, take a look at it here at DigitalCommons.

4) Regarding palindromic dates, according to Gnudung the next one we will encounter is 21.12.2112 at 21.12.

"Heldenepos und Bildungsroman"

Helmut Kiesel, Professor für Neuere Deutsche Literatur an der Uni Heidelberg hat den "Heldenepos und Bildungsroman" des "großen Diktators" gelesen und für die FAZ eine lesenswerte literarische Besprechung geschrieben.

„Mein Kampf“ bleibt verboten. Und Bayern will die vorbereitete kommentierte Ausgabe vielleicht doch noch unterbinden. Was fürchtet man? Und ist dieses Buch tatsächlich unfassbar schlecht geschrieben? Ein Lektüreversuch.

Eine Lektüre von „Mein Kampf“ - War Adolf Hitler ein guter Schriftsteller?

FAZ: Wie Lektüre sich ins Hirn tätowiert

Geahnt hat man es ja immer schon: Lektüre schafft bleibende Eindrücke. Wie und wo die im Gehirn entstehen und wie lange sie anhalten, hat man jetzt in einer Studie herauszufinden versucht:

Was allerdings beim Lesen der packenden „Pompeji-Fiktion“ in den Hirnbildern wirklich hervorstach, waren die mit dem Lesen immer stärker ausgebildeten Nervennetze in den für Gefühls- und Angstwahrnehmung zuständigen somatosensorischen Zentren zu beiden Seiten der Großhirnrinde im höchstgelegenen Teil unter der Schädeldecke.

FAZ.NET - Neuronale Gravuren des Lesens: Die Roman-Verschaltung

Academic Jobs

Don’t misunderstand me. There is unquantifiable intellectual reward from the exploration of scholarly problems and the expansion of every discipline—yes, even the literary ones, and even if that means doing bat-shit analysis like using the rule of “false elimination” to determine that Josef K. is simultaneously guilty and not guilty in The Trial. But there is one sort of reward you will never get: monetary compensation from a stable, non-penurious position at a decent university.

Thesis Hatement

Ausstellung: Zettelkästen

Das Deutsche Literaturarchiv Marbach hat am 4. März eine Ausstellung mit dem Titel "Zettelkästen. Maschinen der Phantasie" eröffnet. In der Ankündigung heißt es:

»Hier fuhr aus den aufgezognen Schleusen des Herzens ein reißender Strom von Blut unter das Räder- und Mühlenwerk seiner Ideen hinein, und die ganze geistige Maschine klapperte, rauschte, stäubte und klingelte –.« Schreiben macht, zumindest in Jean Pauls Siebenkäs, einen Höllenlärm. Der Zettelkasten ist die leibgewordene und vordigitale Variante dieser Phantasiemaschine: Lesefrüchte und Schreibeinfälle werden hier gesammelt und einsortiert, vernetzt und verschachtelt und – durch Glücksaufschläge, Buchstaben- oder Zahlencodes – immer wieder in neue Zusammenhänge gebracht: ›Es‹ denkt und schreibt.

Auf FAZ.NET gibt es heute einen gelungenen Artikel zur Ausstellung und generell zum Thema: Zettelkästen - Alles und noch viel mehr: Die gelehrte Registratur